On February 8th, 2020 I woke up with a new friend on my couch and an anxiety attack. I paced around my apartment, checked and double-checked my bags of name tags, and watched a Bon Apetit video before heading out to my local coffee-shop. I think I was ready almost an hour before I even needed to leave.
We got there and I checked in at the register, grabbed the reserved sign, and kindly asked someone to move from the big table I had reserved, and welcomed a couple of people that had followed me down to the table. I was profusely stress-sweating.
From there I’m pretty sure I blacked out.
Rewind about a month before this, I had a hard three weeks of being the most depressed I’d been in a while. I was bitter, irritated and tired all the time. I did a lot of crying to my friends, and we had some deep talks. One of the conversations that swirled around me during this time was the lack of visible queer people events. The number of sober spaces for queer people is startlingly low around the United States, and even more so in my area. I also, according to Planned Parenthood, live in one of the most hostile states regarding access to birth control and support of LGBTQ+ people, to put it in perspective.
There’s an overall lack of LGBTQ+ events that don’t involve drinking. Of course, there are gay clubs, gay bars, and drag shows. (now, I freakin’ love drag shows-don’t get me wrong), but these events are highly populated by people, straight & cisgender coming to ogle and jeer at queer people. And bachelorette parties, don’t even get me started, but I digress. When you start to ask questions like, “Can I bring my kid to this event?”, “Are there any events during the day?”, “Is this wheelchair accessible?”, “Is this a sober supportive event?”, “Is this space safe for Black and Brown queer people?”, the options dwindle down to none.
So, with this in mind, I did some research. I had an idea for doing something during the day, in a bright and well-lit coffee shop, somewhere local and visible. I went through Facebook and searched for any and all events that seemed to be doing it right. There was a queer rock-climbing group in madison, WI that had this amazing disclaimer about protecting trans people and asking straight & cisgender people to respect the space as queer only. I found queer speed dating events in new york that seemed weird and fun. I looked up Dyke day in Los Angeles and other sober-inclusive events. I wanted to not only do this but do it well. And then I made a poster.
This poster was absolutely not anything special. It had the basic title, the location, the blurb and a quick disclaimer about who this event was for, and how people needed to respect that space. I called and emailed a local coffee shop I had visited in the past three years and knew other queer people in my life had gone and felt safe. I reserved a table, and then I waited for Saturday, February 8th.
But I didn’t just sit around and wait! I shared the poster, EVERYWHERE. I didn’t print any physical flyers, so I am pleased to say that my friends and pals took that poster and spread it like wildfire. Other LGBT groups in Wisconsin cross-posted and cross-posted until I had no idea where the poster was circulating anymore. Other people took the time to share the event info with people not on social media and bugged them about coming up until the day of. I was absolutely in awe of the way people showed up for something they wanted.
When we got to Saturday, I had someone come stay with me from the other side of the state, some people drove from an hour away the morning of to come, and the other 35% of the group that I had never met before? No clue, but I was so glad they were there. I welcomed people, helped them find the table, and continue to freak out inside when I realized people had actually come, and wanted this just as much as I did. While I was standing in line to order, I met five other people there for the brunch who hadn’t found the table, I remember frantically texting my friend who was at the table asking him to pull up more chairs because we were going to need more room. We added so many chairs and a whole extra table to the biggest table in the space, and I think a final headcount was at least twenty people. It was an amazing day, the best day of my life (besides adopting my cat, no lie).
So who came? Well me for one, some families, some people new to the area and some people from outside of Green Bay. There were people trying out new names and pronouns (Highly recommend the name tags, it really gives people the power to share who they are as much as they want, even if you already know them). There were people as young as high-schoolers, to people who owned a house or had a family. Seeing inter-generational LGBTQ+ people connect was a surreal feeling. I had brought along some conversation prompts (they were so bad it was almost impressive) and when the majority of people were there and the conversation had started to dwindle I whipped them out, spread them down the table, and the rest is history. Some fan favorites, “Giraffe or whale?”, “How much gas is in your tank?”, “When was the last time you cried?”, and “Come here often?”.
I was so proud of my friends that came and so thankful for the people who bravely took a leap into the void and showed up to an event where they didn’t know many people. Everyone who came chose to be visible and out with our group and that kind of bravery will always give me chills. Half-way through, I was honored to be asked when the next one was going to be. (It’s going to be April 4th, in case you’re wondering!) This group also had so many ideas for other stuff we could organize, some ideas were: a board game night, a craft/paint night, a potluck in the park during the summer, and “yes, please” more brunches. And at the end fo the event, their biggest sentiment was that they left feeling seen, understood, and welcome. Thank you so much folx.
I wanted to share this process because people said they could never do this. Or that I was really brave for putting this together and while I appreciate the compliment, in terms of organizing events-this is the most laid back it could possibly be. When you put your confidence in other people, and they take on the responsibility of making an event what they want it to be, my job was super easy in comparison. I told my friends, I shared with my followers, and hoped and hoped and hoped.
If you ever need anyone to share about your event, EMAIL ME (firstname.lastname@example.org), I would absolutely love to boost your event. Meanwhile, this event? It’s absolutely a commitment, and my mental health almost got the best of me (it was the worst that weekend), but this is where your support comes in-even when you’re not up to sharing and asking and re-posting and reminding people, you can ask for help. If you’re out there wherever you are and you don’t see the kinds of events you’re looking for, I highly suggest you start having those conversations with people in your area. Get a feel for what people are looking for, ask them to buy in, and go wild. Also, use Canva for your poster design, it’s hella easy.
You can do this!
And if you’re not sure how to start, ASK (me, your friends, the coffee shop you like, anybody!)
I’m realizing I am good at, and really enjoy organizing these kinds of events. Because I believe queer people need spaces to exist, mingle, and feel safe with no agenda. With no expectations, we can be ourselves and be as extroverted or introverted as we want. That experience is precious, and as a true testament to how much people enjoyed the event, we were scheduled to be there from 11am-12pm, but the group didn’t quite clear out until 2:30pm. We did that, together. You can too.
Want some help? Have questions? Get in touch! I’m @itsjuustliz everywhere.